Lauren Rabaino

When we think of Thanksgiving, it brings us a sense of comfort and happiness. We get a chance to escape our demanding lives as college students and come home for the holidays to good food, old friends, loving family, and did I mention good food? However, for some people the thought of Thanksgiving feasts brings us a little anxiety about over-indulging in high-calorie holiday foods.
Did you know that the average Thanksgiving
dinner has 2,000 to 3,000 calories? It seems contradictory to put the words “healthy” and “Thanksgiving” in the same sentence, but I swear it’s doable! I put together a few tips that will help Turkey Day go a little smoother for both your waistline and your conscience.

Don’t go hungry
Remember not to starve yourself beforehand, because you will most likely eat more and faster if you’re super-hungry. This means don’t skip breakfast and fill up with whole-grain crackers, fruit and raw vegetables if hunger pangs strike before the big feast. Don’t skip any meals and have a light lunch on Thanksgiving. This will help to stop you from stuffing yourself on high-calorie foods when dinner is served.

White is light
Turkey has very little fat, is full of protein and is an important source of B vitamins. Your best bet is white meat, but be sure to remove the skin first. A three-ounce serving of skinless turkey breast has about 25 grams of protein, 120 calories and 1 gram of fat. Dark meat is higher in calories, fat and saturated fat.

Dressing, not stuffing
Do not cook stuffing inside the turkey, because it may not get cooked enough to avoid food-borne illnesses. Thanksgiving Day has the highest rate of food poisoning than any other day of the year. Also, stuffing draws moisture and fat from the turkey, making the meat drier and the stuffing higher in calories.

Baked is better
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium and fiber. Try to leave out the butter and excess sugar. Instead try orange juice and a sprinkling of brown sugar for flavor. Baked sweet potatoes are lower in calories and fat than buttery mashed potatoes or candied yams.

Cold killer
Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C, and contain compounds that block certain bacteria that cause infections. Cranberries are packed with dozens of different antioxidants. If you make your own cranberry sauce from whole berries, you’ll get a tastier and less sugary sauce than you can get out of a can. Add oranges to make cranberry-orange sauce and you add even more vitamin C. Spoon cranberry sauce over turkey and stuffing instead of meat-based gravy to decrease calories and perhaps help fight that impending cold at the same time.

Drink plenty of water
Alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body. Drink calorie-free water to help fill up your stomach and keep you hydrated. Drink plenty of water before and during the meal, instead of high-calorie, high-sugar beverages. This will help to keep you full without adding calories. And if you want beer, wine, soft drinks, or other beverages that can have high calorie counts, have just one and then switch to sparkling water with a dash of fruit juice.

Portion control
First of all, decide on the amount of food you’re going to eat. Fill your plate half with vegetables, one quarter with a lean meat and the rest with a grain or starch of your choice. You can eat everything offered at Thanksgiving; just try everything in small amounts. All the different flavors will actually trick your body into thinking it is more satisfied without feeling deprived.

Don’t feast too fast
Eat slowly and stop when you are full. Take the time to stop and enjoy your loved ones instead of stuffing your face with buttery mashed potatoes. Remember the point of getting together with your family isn’t just all the yummy food. Focus on your family and friends and all of the other things you can be thankful for. Also, enjoy the flavors and textures of the food. It will really help you feel fuller faster because it takes time for your brain to register the food that’s in your stomach.

No one can pass up dessert on a day like Thanksgiving, but you can go for the healthiest option of something sweet. Neither pecan pie nor pumpkin pies are low-calorie, low-fat desserts, but your best bet would be the pumpkin pie. One slice of homemade pecan pie has around 500 calories and a slice of pumpkin pie has 300. Pumpkin pie is lower in calories, and an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium and iron. By not eating all of the crust, you cut out a lot of fat without losing the flavor.

Indulge responsibly and enjoy your turkey day! Gobble, gobble!

Sarah Bailey is a nutrition senior, a Mustang Daily nutrition columnist and a member of PULSE. E-mail her your questions at

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